of the ages
A volunteer program
seeks to enhance minds
young and old.
BY AMY MAxMEN research suggests that the volunteer program experience Corps helps older participants maintain their brain function.
At age 63, Joyce Lawrence found that for the first time in her life, she had time on her hands. Her children had left her Baltimore home to raise their own families and
she had retired from her job as a correction officer in prisons.
Her duties were over, but she felt a growing urge to contribute
to society in some other way.
“At our age, you’re left alone a lot of the time and it’s easy
to just watch TV or watch cars go by because you feel no one
needs you anymore,” she says. “But that’s not true. After you
have that pity party, you need to find out how you’re needed
and go make yourself useful.”
For Lawrence, the opportunity to be useful came through
the Experience Corps, a nonprofit organization that brings
retired volunteers as mentors to struggling students in needy
schools. The program was the brainchild of psychologist
and social reformer John Gardner, PhD, remembered for his
push to improve education, eliminate poverty and promote
equality. As Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under
President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, he launched Medicare
and oversaw the passage of the Elementary and Secondary